We all need breaks during the day. As a writer, I know that sitting and staring at my computer screen makes me a little nuts. When I’m at my desk writing, I make a point to get up, stretch and move away from my computer. Otherwise, I would probably punch a hole through my monitor about once a day. And who can afford that?
Now imagine that, like my 5-year-old, you’re almost in kindergarten. What’s the most common answer kids give when asked what their favorite subject in school is? Recess. Very possibly that would be your answer, too.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that recess, the sweet and all-too-short break we loved as kids, is essential for ensuring their tiny brains can stay focused and working hard throughout the day.Not to mention the value it has for a child’s free play and socialization skills.So why then are school districts all over the U.S. trying to cut recess?
*Palm to forehead.*
Instead of letting kids run out their energy on the playground, school administrators have cut recess so kids can spend more time concentrating at their desks.
A few states are trying to change this. Florida guarantees that elementary students get 20 minutes of recesseach day. Rhode Island has a similarlaw in place. And cities and states across the board are beginning to reconsider cuts to recess that have been enacted in recent decades.
Recess: An Ongoing Political Debate
With the passage of No Child Left Behind in 2002 and the more recent implementation of Common Core State Standards, standardized testing has become a major part of school curricula. The metrics gleaned from the results of standardized testing are used to measure teacher and school performance, and to help determine the amount of funding schools can access.One analysis found that the average student is required to take 112 standardized testsduring his/her school career, from pre-K to grade 12. As a result of federally mandated testing, teachers spend more and more time teaching rote fact regurgitation for tests and less time teaching meaningful content.Clearly, these laws were made by politicians — not educators.
To cram in more teaching time, districts began cutting recess in favor of additional study time. Any parent in his/her right mind will tell you that cutting recess or eliminating it altogether is a terrible idea, particularly for young children.
And scientific evidence backs what we parents already know.
Recess Research: What Science Says
In the era of increased political correctness and child coddling, some schools see recess as a liability: kids could get hurt, parents could sue; stranger danger is real and some see allowing our kids to roam free as an invitation for dangerous people to snatch them away.I’m not going to say any of these ideas are invalid. They no doubt come from a place of good intent, but recess is not where we should direct these overprotective feelings.
In addition, myths often replace facts when it comes to recess. Recess opponents say that, after running around for 10 to 20 minutes at a time, kids return to the classroom tired and less able to focus.Luckily, research demonstrates the complete opposite of this argument. Take a look at the facts for yourself:
- Physical activity improves brain function —People, including children, who exercise regularly have increased cognitive ability. This seems like a no-brainer to me!
- Recess teaches social skills —Recess makes kids socialize because they have to ask to play with one another. It enhances their leadership abilities and powers of negotiation, and gives them an opportunity for socialization outside a rigid classroom setting.
- Recess keeps kids fit —We all know that childhood obesity is a growing concern in America. Letting kids play and run provides necessary fitness that helps alleviate this problem.
- Recess lessens stress —Physical activity produces endorphins which make us happy and reduce stress. As well, research shows active kidsare less stressed.
- Recess benefits students with ADHD — Kids with ADHD experience the same benefits as other children when it comes to recess, but to an even greater degree. It helps them practice focusoutside the classroom, where there’s less pressure to perform.
- Children can learn more in less time when given breaks —Yes, kids are easily distracted. But giving them regular breaks throughout the daymakes them more productive.
Give Recess a Break
Sometimes, I think we forget that kids are humans, too. They need all the things adults do but to an even greater degree. Employers don’t expect workers to work eight hours straight in a day, with no breaks. So why would we expect this of our children?